Saturday 30 January 2021

Guest Review: The Shadow Man By Helen Fields

The brand new crime thriller from the bestselling author of the Perfect series – Helen Fields is back with her first stand-alone novel!

He collects his victims. But he doesn’t keep them safe.

Elspeth, Meggy and Xavier are locked in a flat. They don’t know where they are, and they don’t know why they’re there. They only know that the shadow man has taken them, and he won’t let them go.
Desperate to escape, the three of them must find a way out of their living hell, even if it means uncovering a very dark truth.
Because the shadow man isn’t a nightmare. He’s all too real.
And he’s watching.

Review: Helen Fields is the author of the series of D.I. Luc Callanach detective novels. Having read a number of the books in the series, I was keen to read this latest book by the author. Like the Luc Callanach series, this book is set in Edinburgh and follows an investigation by Police Scotland's Major Investigation Team (MIT). Some of the MIT’s minor characters from previous books feature in this story, but two new characters are the main protagonists in this book, which therefore can be read as a standalone. Detective Inspector Brodie Baarda, an Eton-educated detective from London has been drafted into Edinburgh’s MIT due to staff shortages. Also seconded to the investigation is Dr Connie Woolwine, a forensic psychologist from Massachusetts in the USA. The story revolves around these two main characters, both outsiders to Edinburgh.

At the outset of the book, a woman has been abducted. Connie Woolwine has been brought in to provide a profile of the offender. Later on, another woman’s dead body is discovered and more abductions occur. There develops a race against time as Connie Woolwine and D.I. Baarda attempt to track down the missing persons. As in the author’s previous books, the tension is maintained throughout and there was plenty of action and drama, resulted in my wanting to keep reading and find out what happened next. I should add a care warning that some of the descriptions in the book are very graphic.

As a fan of the the D.I. Callanach series, I enjoyed this book and found it to be to be an interesting spinoff. Indeed, the premise bears some similarities to “Perfect Remains”, one of the early D.I. Callanach books. I found the main characters well drawn, both of them coming to the investigation with personal issues. It was also an interesting, and different, perspective to have a story featuring a criminal profiler, and I enjoyed reading about some of the unconventional methods she employed. The city of Edinburgh also features strongly in the narrative and it was fun to track the movements of the various characters around the city. Overall, I found the book to be a thrilling and interesting account of a major police investigation into a bizarre series of crimes.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Friday 29 January 2021

Review: From the Desk of Zoe Washington by

 From debut author Janae Marks comes a captivating story full of heart, as one courageous girl questions assumptions, searches for the truth, and does what she believes is right--even in the face of great opposition.

Zoe Washington isn't sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she's never met, hadn't heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who's been in prison for a terrible crime?

A crime he says he never committed.

Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe's worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she's worthy of auditioning for Food Network's Kids Bake Challenge.

But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus's conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn't know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.

Review: Oh I loved this middle grade novel. It came highly recommended to me and I have to say that the audiobook was a real treat!

This book has just a little bit of everything. We have a main character who is wonderfully independent. She has a passion in life an is trying her best to chase her dreams with the support of her family. Her family in unconventional but I loved them nonetheless and they made me feel good about families who are out there, they made me happy. 

Then we have the fact that Zoe's father is in prison for something she believes he did not do. This new communication with her father helps to grow her relationship with him which has up until now been nonexistent and it also strengthens the relationship with her grandmother. I loved that we got to see these two relationship with more distant family members grow and evolve over the course of the book because that isn't something we usually get to see in novels especially middle grade novels and I found it fascinating to follow!

I loved getting to know Zoe and watch her emotional rollercoaster over the course of this novel. This is a book I would happily share with a reading group or a class and I think it is something which should have pride of place in today's market. Highly recommend.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Thursday 28 January 2021

Unboxing January's Enchanted Fandom Drinking Vessel Subscription Box & Cocktail Making


Review: More Than a Woman by Caitlin Moran

A decade ago, Caitlin Moran thought she had it all figured out. Her instant best seller How to Be a Woman was a game-changing take on feminism, the patriarchy and the general ‘hoo-ha’ of becoming a woman. Back then, she firmly believed ‘the difficult bit’ was over and her 40s were going to be a doddle.

If only she had known: when middle age arrives, a whole new bunch of tough questions need answering. Why isn’t there such a thing as a ‘Mum Bod’? How did sex get boring? What are men really thinking? Where did all that stuff in the kitchen drawers come from? Can feminists have Botox? Why has wine turned against you? How can you tell the difference between a teenage micro-breakdown and the real thing? Has feminism gone too far? And, as always, who's looking after the children?

Now with ageing parents, teenage daughters, a bigger bum and a to-do list without end, Caitlin Moran is back with More Than a Woman: a guide to growing older, a manifesto for change and a celebration of all those middle-aged women who keep the world turning.

Review: Well I adored this book. I loved everything about it so this is kind of a hard review to write because I just feel like you should read it and I know you're going to enjoy it. 

I did the audio of this book and it was wonderful because it was read by the author and it meant that all the comic timing was in all the right places and when things started to get a bit serious, her tone got serious too. Emotions brought this book to life and if you can get hold of the audiobook I really recommend it. 

I loved How To Be A Woman so much that it is listed as one of my favourite books of all time. I feel like I should read it at least once a year and not just having read it a couple of time and so a follow up to that book was bound to be a win for me. I love the fact that this book starts out with the author talking to her past self about how everything has changed, or not as the case may be was just so wonderfully funny and poetic. 

One of my favourite sections of the book, aside from all of it, was when she discusses how there is no decent way to express female arousal. When reading books or listening to discussions about male arousal there is a whole host of ways to talk about it but when it comes to female arousal, what do we have? I was laughing out loud, in the gym listening to this and have replayed that chapter for many many people. 

As you'll have gathered by now, I love Caitlin Moran's writing, I will read and then reread anything she writes and I can't recommend this book highly enough, it was wonderful and funny and you should really and truly read it, on audiobook if possible!

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US


Wednesday 27 January 2021

Review: Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella

 I love you . . . but what if I can't love your life?

Ava is sick of online dating. She's always trusted her own instincts over an algorithm, anyway, and she wants a break from it all. So when she signs up to a semi-silent, anonymous writing retreat in glorious Italy, love is the last thing on her mind.

Until she meets a handsome stranger. . . All she knows is that he's funny, he's kind and - she soon learns - he's great in bed. He's equally smitten, and after a whirlwind, intoxicating affair, they pledge their love without even knowing each other's real names.

But when they return home, reality hits. They're both driven mad by each other's weird quirks and annoying habits, from his eccentric, naked-sauna-loving family to her terribly behaved, shirt-shredding dog. As disaster follows disaster, it seems that while they love each other, they just can't love each other's lives. Can they overcome their differences to find one life, together?

Review: The meet cute in this novel was so sweet and I really loved the idea of two writers getting together in this way. I also really loved the humour and the writing style. Sophie Kinsella just has a natural talent when it comes to her writing. She has such a great sense of humour and its something that really appeals to me. 

That's really where the things I liked in this book stop though. It's taken me a while to actually pen my feelings on this novel. I actually posted a video review of this when I first read it because I found it so hard to believe I didn't like something from one of my favourite authors but this book just really angered me and I just couldn't enjoy it like any other Sophie Kinsella novel. 

Ava should have been a character that I really enjoyed spending this book with. I love the idea that she rescues everything i hr life, books, her dog, her furniture. She is a very sustainable character sure but she is hugely selfish and judgmental. She just doesn't seem prepared to bend at all in her relationships whether that's in her love life or in her friendship group. I ADORED her friendship group and would happily read more about them in future novels, however Ava really got to me in that she felt that Matt had to change in order to make their relationship work and she had no ideas that she could change or what compromise actually means. It actually just seems really sexist to me.

Matt and Ava go into their relationship agreeing that they will have baggage. They decide that they don't want to bring any of their previous relationship drama with them but that means, in this case, that they don't tell each other anything about their past. I love the idea of no baggage but it just can't work in real life, you need to know what someone has been through in order to grow a relationship with them. Sure we can have work acquaintances that we only know as their work persona but if you want any kind of deep and meaningful relationship with someone then you need to know what makes them tick and what makes them vulnerable. 

I actually felt quite sorry for Matt at points in this book. His friendship group were also very true to life. A lot less likable that Ava's friendship group but still very true to life. Matt had a lot of pressure from his career and from his parents and so I really hoped his relationship with Ava would be a lovely and romantic thing for him but she wanted him to change everything about himself and so I found myself rooting for the relationship to fail and not for love to win!

Another thing that really struck me with the book is that the covers are so different UK to US and the way Matt is described in the book really fits both of these covers but Ava doesn't look like she is described in the book at all. So I know that writers doesn't really have a say in their covers but it's just another thing that bothered me when it came to reading the book and I read the audio so I didn't really even see the cover when I was reading!

This was such a hard review to write because I love Sophie Kinsella so much but I just couldn't draw a lot of positives from this book and so it is not something I recommend.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Live Interview with C.L.Taylor Author of The Island


Tuesday 26 January 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten New To Me Authors I Read in 2020

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

I Love this week's theme, I haven't done a TTT in a while so it's good to come back in with this one. I read lots of new to me authors in 2020 and so here are my faves!

Monday 25 January 2021

Guest Review: The Village Shop for Lonely Hearts by Alison Sherlock

After losing her job in New York, Amber Green isn’t looking forward to visiting her godmother in the sleepy village of Cranbridge. With its empty lanes and rundown shops, it’s hardly a place to mend her lonely heart.
But when Amber discovers that Cranbridge Stores, owned by her godmother Cathy and son Josh, is under threat of financial ruin, she realises that her skills as a window dresser might just be able to help save the struggling shop.
When disaster strikes, Amber and Josh must unite to save both the shop and the village from flooding.
Can Cranbridge Stores become the heart of the village once more?
And as the village begins to come back to life, perhaps Amber will discover a reason to stay…

Review: This is book 1 in the Riverside Lane series by Alison Sherlock, an author who is new to me. I loved the book’s cover and liked the sound of the storyline, so I looked forward to reading this work from an unfamiliar author.

The story centres on Amber Green, a successful window dresser who has fallen victim of job cuts at the large New York store where she worked. At the request of her mother, she is making her way to visit her godmother in England before joining her parents in their new home in New Zealand. Her godmother has a general store in the tiny village of Cranbridge that she runs with her son Josh. However, on arrival, Amber finds that the store, and indeed the village itself, has become run down and is facing closure. With time on her hands, she decides to put her skills to good use, and sets out with Josh to attempt to turn round the store’s fortunes. As they gradually begin to see results in resurrecting both the store and the village, a storm sees much of the village flooded, and Amber and Josh find themselves at the centre of rescue operations. When it eventually seems like time for her to continue her trip, Amber begins to wonder if she can leave Josh and the village behind after all.

I thought this was a really lovely story, truly heartwarming. I was really taken with Amber from the start and was delighted to see her develop from a rather demoralised woman to a strong and confident character as the story progressed. I also liked Josh, but felt sorry for his situation and glad when he found someone as kind as Amber to help him. The village of Cranbridge was an idyllic setting, with the little river running through it, although, of course, this became a not-so-pleasant feature when the floods came. I also loved the sound of the revamped Cranbridge Stores; I just wish I could go and have a nosey around. I would certainly recommend this book; perfect to escape from the real world and its problems. I very much look forward to the next book in this series.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Friday 22 January 2021

Review: Influence by Sara Shepard and Lilia Buckingham

After a video she makes goes viral, everyone knows Delilah Rollins. And now that she's in LA, Delilah's standing on the edge of something incredible. Everything is going to change. She has no idea how much.

Jasmine Walters-Diaz grew up in the spotlight. A child star turned media darling, the posts of her in her classic Lulu C. rainbow skirt practically break the Internet. But if the world knew who Jasmine really was, her perfect life? Canceled.

Fiona Jacobs is so funny--the kind of girl for whom a crowd parts--no wonder she's always smiling! But on the inside? The girl's a hot mess. And when someone comes out of the shadows with a secret from her past, it's one that won't just embarrass Fiona: it will ruin her.

Who wouldn't want to be Scarlet Leigh? Just look at her Instagram. Scarlet isn't just styled to perfection: she is perfection. Scarlet has a gorgeous, famous boyfriend named Jack and there's a whole fanbase about their ship. To everyone watching online, their lives seem perfect . . . but are they really? The sun is hot in California . . . and someone's going to get burned.

Review: Well this book was quite different from what I had expected in a number of ways. This was my first Sara Shepard novel and I think I would definitely like to pick up more from her in the future. 

I really loved the way this book was structured. Each character had their own voice and we got to hear from each of them. The characters felt fully formed and I could really imagine watching Scarlet's live videos or Delilah taking photos and getting products just for the 'gram. I also loved the setting because I feel like all of these improbable things could all go on in LA.

What I struggled with in this book was the thriller/mystery aspect of it. I read this in eBook form and I think the actual ins and outs of the storyline would have been harder to follow on audiobook which is how I normally do most of my reading so I am glad that I didn't choose to read this book on audio. I didn't feel particularly invested in the crime that took place or the other influencers efforts to get to the bottom of it. I also didn't really think it was that thrilling even knowing how everything ended up. 

Aside from the structure and the realistic nature of the characters though, I also really loved the exploration of maintaining a relationship whilst being at the forefront of public attention. I felt like this was dealt with really well in the novel. How can you go from being a child star to admitting you're in a same sex relationship, how can you form a new relationship when every follower is so invested in you current ship. I really liked this side of the storyline and that is what has stuck with me after finishing this book. 

So as a thriller this book fell short of the mark for me, but as a contemporary novel about the life of influencers I thought it did a good job. Go into this book knowing that it is not the world most mysterious of thrillers and you'll be fine!

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Thursday 21 January 2021

Young Adult Book Review: The Island by C.L. Taylor | Is This THE YA Thriller of 2021?


Review: Rescue Me by Sarra Manning

 Margot doesn't have time for love.

Will is afraid to love.

And neither of them are expecting to fall in love with Blossom: a gentle Staffy with a tragic past, a belly made for rubbing and a head the size of a football.

After their first meeting at the rescue centre, both Margot and Will want to adopt Blossom so reluctantly agree to share custody. But Will's obsession for micro-managing and clear-cut boundaries and Margot's need to smother Blossom with affection, means that soon they have a very confused and badly behaved dog on their hands.

Can they put their differences aside to become successful "co-pawrents" and maybe even friends? And meanwhile, does Blossom have plans of her own?

Review: Although it is right there in the tagline, this book was waaaaay more about dogs than I expected it to be. This book really is exactly as it says, two lonely people and one good dog and all three of them were truly wonderful, fully formed characters to read about. 

Will and Margot are so much more similar than they realise and the most important things about them that is truly key to this story is how strong and stubborn both of them are, just like their wonderful dog blossom. I really identified with Margot, not just because she is 36 and worried about her biological clock just like me. There are definite care warnings when it comes to being childless and reading this book, I did find it tough at times. But I also really identified with the fact that she has been living alone so long she sometimes cannot see that it is OK to ask for help with things. 

Will is such a cinnamon roll and so if you like your male leads like that you're going to love this book! He is so prickly and yet underneath it all he is such a family guy and Blossom really does help to melt that hard exterior shell. Speaking of loving male leads like this, there are some steamy moments in this book and when I say steamy I mean hot. I loved the romantic scenes in this novel, they were so well written and very female-centric and definitely got me hot under the collar-I loved that side of this book. 

Now if you're not a dog person, like me, and you're worried that there are going to be too many details about treats and dog bowls and picking up poo then fear not. There are a lot of details like that in this book but that is not the be all and end all of the storyline and each poo bag comes with a meaning behind it that moves the plot on or leads to a description of another wonderful midi dress or pair of fancy shoes! I love that this book shows that one can be a dog a person or one can be a fashionista and it isn't the be all and end all of your life, it is just a part of you. 

This book is also a love letter to London living. I so miss being able to walk out of my house or off a bus or a tube and get somewhere, I loved being able to get my steps in without having to walk on a treadmill and so I really enjoyed taking walks with these characters and exploring a part of my heritage at the same time. The description of their respective abodes and the changing weather was just stunning and so it was easy to immerse yourself in their world and just enjoy a really lovely story about some complex characters. Highly recommend!

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Wednesday 20 January 2021

Guest Review: The Little Village Library by Helen Rolfe

It takes a village...

Cloverdale is known for its winding roads, undulating hills and colourful cottages, and now for its Library of Shared Things: a place where locals can borrow anything they might need, from badminton sets to waffle makers. A place where the community can come together.

Jennifer has devoted all her energy into launching the Library. When her sister Isla moves home, and single dad Adam agrees to run a mending workshop at the Library, new friendships start to blossom. But what is Isla hiding, and can Adam ever mend his broken past?

Then Adam's daughter makes a startling discovery, and the people at the Library of Shared Things must pull together to help one family overcome its biggest challenge of all . . .

A heartwarming story about the kindness we can find when we least expect it, and the places we learn to call home.

Review: I have become quite a fan of Helen Rolfe’s writing, having read some of her festive stories over the Christmas period. I was attracted by the title of this particular book, and then by its lovely cover, that speaks of a charming country village. I was totally hooked by the story right from the start, and although it was much more serious than I was expecting, it kept my attention to the very end. I will certainly be looking out for more from this author.

At the beginning of the book, we meet Adam Parker, who has moved with his son and daughter to the little village of Cloverdale. Following an initial move from Australia to London, Adam has moved his family to this little village for a better quality of life. On a visit to the Cloverdale library, Adam learns that local resident Jenny is in the process of setting up an extension to the facilities - the Library of Shared Things. This is a place where members of the community can borrow useful items, from bread makers to chain saws, for a small cost. In an effort to get involved in neighbourhood activities, Adam offers his help with the project. At the same time, the locals, particularly a few of the ladies, take an interest in him. They want to know why he has moved his children half way around the world and where is his wife. Unbeknown to him, the rumour mill is turning, and it could spell danger for the Parker family. In the meantime, it is not only Adam who is seemingly hiding a secret; there is tension among some of the other villagers as well.

I thought that this was a really compelling story with something for everyone - drama, romance, humour and mystery. Although the title and cover suggested a cosy tale, there were some serious issues within the pages for many of the characters, not just Adam. While Adam and his family were the central characters in the book, there were a number of other strong players, each with their own storylines. The secret that Adam was hiding was hinted at all the way through the story, never being quite revealed until almost the very end; such skilful writing. I did guess what it was, but not until well into the book. I thought the concept of the Library of Shared Things was quite intriguing. I would thoroughly recommend this book to other readers.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Tuesday 19 January 2021

Massive Unboxing And Book Haul | New 2020 Releases and Library Wins!


Review: The Island by C.L. Taylor

 Welcome to The Island.

Where your worst fears are about to come true…

It was supposed to be the perfect holiday: a week-long trip for six teenage friends on a remote tropical island.

But when their guide dies of a stroke leaving them stranded, the trip of a lifetime turns into a nightmare.

Because someone on the island knows each of the group’s worst fears. And one by one, they’re becoming a reality.

Seven days in paradise. A deadly secret.

Who will make it off the island alive?

Review: I love a CL Taylor novel and I really love a CL Taylor YA novel. I really love the fact that we have a claustrophobic environment in this book a little like her previous young adult novel The Treatment, it really makes for a heart stopping read. You feel the pressure that the characters are under and it rally adds to the thrill. This novel also tackles some mental health issues and how trauma can affect people differently and I thought that was a really great move on this writer's part. 

It took me a few moments to work out who everyone in this book was and how they were connected, you're stopped right into the action on a holiday with a group of young people who meet up every year because their Mums were in the same NCT group. I love this concept because I had friends growing up who were in my life for that same reason. You have to work out the dynamic of the group which the friends also have to do each year as they grow and change. Each character is unique but they all have fears which are exposed on this trip. 

The structure of this novel is great because it is essentially a dual narrative. We get to hear from Jessie and Danny but Jessie's story is told in the first person whereas Danny's is told in the third person. I loved this distinction and the fact that we had both view points. I felt I was drawn most towards Jefferson because he seems to be the most different from the others in the group. We have 2 characters who are in a relationship and two who are related and so I felt like Jefferson was a kindred spirit in being an outsider. He also came out to the group a few years ago and I liked that this detail was included as part of the storyline. 

I aways love the fact that this authors feeds us information in a slow drip drip drip. It means that you have to keep turning the pages to find out more about and event or a character and I think that bonds you to the characters even more. I love that sense of being intrigued and the thrill of new events or new people. Because this is a YA novel it does read a little quicker than CL Taylor's adult novels which are also pacey but a little longer and so I flew through this book in an afternoon/evening. I really enjoyed it even though it got a little scary at times. It was a great break from the real world and I highly recommend reading this sooner rather than later!

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Monday 18 January 2021

Book Spotlight: The Laird's Secret by Linda Tyler

I have a new book to bring to your attention today. The Laird's Secret by Linda Tyler is published today and I have all the info you need below. If you love the sound of that, you can click here to order your copy now!

Here's what it's all about...

When trust has been destroyed, could you learn to love again? 

In 1953 life is getting back to normal after the war and Christina Camble is one of those looking to the future. But her trust in men is destroyed when she discovers her fiancĂ© has a wife and child. She gives up her job and flat in a bid to escape London and moves to Scotland, where she hopes to get her life back on the right track. 

Christina’s expectation of a peaceful life is interrupted when she meets handsome but reserved Alex MacDonald, the Laird of Craiglogie, a man physically scarred and emotionally wrecked by his experiences in World War Two. As Christina and Alex cautiously get to know one another, she soon finds herself embroiled in his life and living in his house. 

Christina discovers she has made an enemy of family friend, Helen, who wants Alex for herself. As Helen sets her sights on Alex, she succeeds in driving a wedge between him and Christina. 

Will Alex and Christina find their happy ever after, and is it possible for two damaged people to ever learn to love and trust again?

The Laird's Secret is an emotional and moving historical romance which is the perfect read for fans of authors like, Danielle Steele, Julia Quinn and Fern Britton.

About The Author

Linda Tyler’s debut novel, Revenge of the Spanish Princess, a swashbuckling romantic adventure set in the Mediterranean in the 1600s, won a Romance Writers of America competition and was published in April 2020 by DC Thomson as a My Weekly Pocket Novel. Her second novel, The Laird’s Secret, a romance set in rural Scotland in the 1950s, was commended in a Scottish Association of Writers’ competition and was released in January 2021 by Bloodhound Books. She has a further Pocket Novel coming out in March 2021, Summer Intrigue, a Regency romance in which the hero and heroine set out to unmask a spy for Napoleon Bonaparte at a country house party. Linda has also had short stories published in the UK, the USA and Australia.


Born in London, Linda moved progressively north until settling with her husband in a village on the edge of the Scottish Highlands.  She has a PhD and is a former university lecturer and a practitioner in child law. She has kept chickens, bred dogs and raised children. Linda now runs holiday accommodation, sings in a local choir and is walked daily by the family dog. 

Author page:

Twitter: @LindaTyler100

Saturday 16 January 2021

Guest Review: The Secret Footballer: Access All Areas By The Secret Footballer

Forgive your enemies, they say.
Keep their addresses and keep notes, I say.

In Access All Areas, you'll learn how to buy three Premier League points for just £25,000, what it's really like to face a Football Association disciplinary hearing, and why every footballer in the country shuddered when they heard about the Ched Evans case.

Add to that The Secret Footballer's no-holds-barred tour of the country's Premier League clubs - telling us what it's like to play in each ground and revealing the one that all players really hate to go to - and you get an entertaining glimpse into a world that's normally off-limits to the fans.

Unapologetically opinionated, witty and honest, Access All Areas is every thinking fan's guide to the beautiful game.

I am The Secret Footballer and all bets from here on in are off...

Review: I wasn’t sure what to make of this book, whether it was a spoof or a serious account of some of the inner, and less palatable, workings of the world of professional football. The Secret Footballer is a pseudonym for a person or persons who is the author of a newspaper column and a number of books about football. Some people believe that they have been able to identify The Secret Footballer as a former professional footballer who played for a number of clubs, including two in the Premier League. Other people have suggested that the author is a journalist or journalists who have gleaned a lot of knowledge from interviewing professional footballers. I listened to this book, published in 2015, as an audiobook.

As I said, I wasn’t sure what to make of this book, which is a very cynical account of footballers, managers, club chairmen, referees, player transfers and football academies. There are some humorous moments, but also some sad moments, especially when discussing the high rates of depression and divorce among ex-players. I found that some of the situations described were familiar from reading other players’ biographies, so clearly the author knows about the world of professional football. I can also understand why the author would want to remain anonymous, given that he is less than complementary about a number of famous individuals from football.

This book comes with a care warning, in that there is a lot of explicit language throughout. This was probably made worse by the fact that I listened to it as an audiobook. In addition, I thought that some of the language was racially offensive. This could have been an interesting book about football but, for me, it was spoiled by the over-liberal use of profanities.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Friday 15 January 2021

Blog Tour: Interview with Margaret Skea Author of Katharina: Deliverance (Book 1 Katharina series) @margaretskea1 @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours

Today is my stop on the blog tour for Katharina: Deliverance (Book 1 Katharina series) by Margaret Skea. I have an interview with the author to share with you today and if you like the sound of that you can click here to order your copy now. Don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour for more exclusive content and reviews.

Here's what it's all about...

At five Katharina is placed in a convent.
At twenty-three she escapes.
At twenty-five she marries the most controversial man in Europe.

This is her story - of courage, resilience in the face of adversity and a determination to choose her own life.

If you like your historical fiction to be absorbing, authentic, beautifully written and full of warmth and heart, this portrayal of Katharina von Bora, the escaped nun who married Martin Luther, is for you.

Are you ready for that interview?

How did you get into writing?

Two important things happened when I was eight.  I won a children’s poetry competition and my dad published a school textbook. Inspired by both I wrote a story about a family of white mice – which I thought the company producing my dad’s book would publish. Sadly, no… but there and then I determined to be an author ‘when I grew up’. Of course life intervened and I did lots of other things first, but I have finally ‘grown up’ now.

Do you write full time and if so have you always done this?

For much of my adult life I concentrated on writing short stories, and quite a number won or were placed in competitions, becoming the perfect avoidance tactic - stopping me from writing my first novel. Thankfully I broke through the barrier and now have five published novels.  But like most writers, I don’t have the luxury of writing full time. However, the other work I now do is all writing related – I am the Creative Writing Fellow for a collective of eight writing groups in the Lothians (around Edinburgh) – running mini-workshops and providing one-to-one feedback on their writing; and I also do a limited amount of individually tailored mentoring for other authors / would-be authors. 

Do you have a particular writing style or genre that you prefer to write? 

All my novels are historical fiction, but rooted in real history. However, most, but not all of my short stories are contemporary. They are as far removed from me in terms of location as my novels are in time and I’ve come to realize that  the challenge I most relish is to take readers somewhere neither I or they have ever been, to  provide them with a ‘you are there’ experience. 

How do you develop your characters as you write – are any of them  based on real people?

Most of the people in my novels (give or take a few servants and one key fictional family in my Scottish trilogy) were real and that poses particular problems. The fictional family develop through the course of the trilogy – and often in surprising ways, but I have to be careful with the real people. 

For them I need to make sure that everything I write, even the fictional elements – for example their motivations and conversations - are in keeping with the known facts, as well as what can be deduced of their character from documented actions. Sometimes it’s possible to ‘eavesdrop’ on conversations – for example in my Katharina books we have Luther’s  ‘Table Talk’ which was written down by some of the participants; and sometimes we can gain an understanding of a character through letters. My ‘rule of thumb’ is that everything I write should at least be plausible, and preferably, likely.

What was the inspiration behind your book?

In 2015 – two years before the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door – I discovered he had a wife. I knew nothing about her and that intrigued me – why didn’t I?

 A little bit of research showed me that there wasn’t a lot of documentary evidence to be known. However, and this I found very significant, she is the only reformer’s wife of whom there is an attested contemporary portrait – and there are lots of her – so clearly in her own time she was important. I felt she, and her legacy as a remarkable woman of faith, deserved to be much better known.

What is your writing process – do you plan it out first? Write a bit at a time?

Because of the historical setting I have a start and (sometimes) an end point, with various historical events as ‘signposts’ along the way. But I generally have little idea of how I am going to get from ‘a’ to ‘b’ to ‘z’. I focus on writing a section at a time, but I never finish at the end of one. I always stop part way through a paragraph or sentence. That makes it much easier to pick up where I left off. My other ‘trick’ is to read over a day’s writing before I go to bed and allow my subconscious to continue to work on it while I sleep.

How much of you is reflected in your writing?

I think it is impossible for an author not to reflect themselves in what they write, whether consciously or unconsciously. 

I write for a secular market, even when, as in the Katharina novels, the context is religious. And I don’t, in this or any other context attempt to ‘preach’.  However, the most important aspect of my life is my personal faith in Christ, and that impacts both on what I write and how it is written. As a result, it is my deliberate choice not to include explicit sex or strong language, and where the history demands the inclusion of violence, my intention is that it isn’t gratuitous. The books are therefore suitable for anyone from 12 to 112.

What kind of research did you have to do before / during writing the book?

I spend as much time researching as I do writing (often more!) As I mentioned earlier, there was a dearth of written records about Katharina von Bora, so my research for these books was a little different from usual. 

There is debate about her parentage, her birthplace, and the reason why she was sent to a convent aged five. So I had to weigh up the conflicting evidence for her early life and come to my own conclusion of what I felt most likely.

The time she spent in two separate convents is documented, along with, in the case of  the Marienthron at Nimbschen, the names of the other members of the order, but there are no specific details of her life there. Therefore the research for her convent years was based on what is known of everyday life in Benedictine and Cistercian convents of the time, along with the evidence that she had a close group of friends who escaped the convent with her. 

From the time that she came to Wittenberg we know quite a bit about what she did, but not her personality, so I had to deduce her motivation and character from her actions  and from what is written about her by others. Perhaps most importantly of all I went to Saxony, to walk where she walked, stand where she stood and, where possible, handle things that she handled, and thus attempt to see her environment  through her eyes. 

How much attention do you pay to reviews?

From time to time I read reviews and if they are positive, that’s obviously pleasing. If they are negative I try to assess if they have any validity and f so, take a note of the comment to help inform my future writing. But often it is simply a matter of differing tastes and that doesn’t worry me. What I do find a little annoying is if someone is factually incorrect in their criticism and it is tempting to respond – but as there’s nothing I can do I sit on my hands and resist the impulse. 

Are friends and family supportive of your writing?

My friends have always been supportive, as have my parents, but my wider family initially thought of writing as my ‘hobby’ and therefore not a priority. It wasn’t until I started winning prizes and gaining a wider recognition that recognition came at home also. Now, I’m glad to say,  they are totally supportive. 

How do you feel leading up to publication day?

I have always focused on paperback book launches in bookshops – and so there has always been both a build up of excitement and also a wee bit of trepidation as the day approaches – 

Will the folk who have promised to come actually turn up? / What will the person chairing the event say about the book? / How will my readings go? / Will there be a deathly hush when questions are invited from the audience? / Will people want to buy signed copies? But it’s only once the evening is over, with none of my worst fears coming to pass, that I realize just how much tension there has been. 

Which other authors inspire you?

I’ve always been a fan of classics such as Austen and Hardy, as well as a host of children’s writers that are my ‘comfort’ reads; but three of my favourite authors are Daphne d Maurier, Winston Graham and Dorothy Dunnett. I love books steeped in atmosphere and a sense of place and all of these authors are masters at that. 

Finally, what are you working on right now?

Just before lockdown I finished the paper research for a new novel set outside Britain, and I was getting ready to organize a trip to do the ‘on location’ research required.  That of course couldn’t happen, and I found I couldn’t settle to write anything else. 

Instead I decided to focus on other aspects of my writing career that would be useful over the long term. So I am learning to (almost) touch type – at least I’m using all my fingers now, not just two – even if it isn’t always the right ones). I’m also doing several online courses on marketing books – a very steep learning curve. But the really exciting development has been working with a fabulous narrator to produce Audiobooks of my Scottish trilogy – 2 down, one to go!

Thanks so much to Margaret Skea for stopping by the blog today!